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Anonymous Man

by Wayne Scheer

I am anonymous. Not invisible, like the Ralph Ellison or H.G. Wells characters. I have a distinct physical being, just not a distinctive one. At five feet, ten inches tall and 175 pounds, I'm about as average height and weight as American males get. As I've aged, my hair has turned white. This enables my wife to find me in crowds, but others see a shock of white hair and white beard while my face and body go unnoticed.

I'd probably make an excellent bank robber. Or spy.

When I was younger, my appearance was even more bland. I had dark brown hair, of course. In college, I wore my hair long and I grew a thick beard. But in the sixties that just made me even more anonymous.

I learned as a child I could get away with things, even before I knew why. I could sit in the back of a classroom, do just enough not to be noticed as a good student or a slacker, and drift off into my own world where I starred in center field for the Yankees. They had to trade that Mantle kid to make room for me. The teachers rarely called me out of my fantasies because they'd have to admit they didn't remember my name.

I used this to my advantage when I was drafted into the army. I was determined to get through Basic Training unnoticed and unprovoked. The drill sergeant would recall some heinous offense, like not folding socks correctly, and shout, “Granger. My grandmother does a better push-up than you. Drop and give me twenty!” Or “Greene,  I bet you ate half a pig of bacon this morning.   Jumping jacks. Start counting. I'll tell you when to stop!”   When he got to me, he'd lose his concentration as his eyes dropped down at my name stenciled on my shirt pocket and he'd try to remember something about me.


And he'd move on.

My talent as Anonymous Man worked when I taught college, too. I'd see the president on campus. He'd ask, “How are things in the Sociology Department?”

“Fine,” I'd say, not mentioning that I taught literature.

He had me confused with another professor, first-name Wayne, who always complained about getting stuck on twice the number of committees as others.

There are those who like to stand out in crowds, to dance in the spotlight. I learned early that shuffling in the shadows of anonymity has its advantages.

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